On "The Age of Hell" CHIMAIRA continues to demonstrate an ability to keep things fresh without abandoning the core sound. Oh sure, "The Infection" with its brooding and differently dark tones did not impact as mightily as previous releases, but it stands as a very respectable release regardless. Rather than travelling further down that road, the Cleveland collective brings the aggression/immediacy level back up, retains some of the moodiness of "The Infection", and offers a few new twists.
"The Age of Hell" features several CHIMAIRA thrashers of a variety more typical for the band, namely the raging and memorable title track and a furious cut called "Born in Blood" that features brutal guest vocals from WHITECHAPEL's Phil Bozeman. Six-minute instrumental "Samsara" is notable for its epic arrangement values and serves as a great album closer. In addition to several beefy and mostly mid-tempo bruisers ("Year of the Snake" tends to stand out) that come with that patented low-end, fat riff tone, and Rob Arnold's always well-composed guitar solos are a handful of tracks that show another side of the band. Sections of melodic clean vocals work especially well on "Losing My Mind" and "Time is Running Out", while their inclusion on a tough nut called "Clockwork" (as well as an effective atmospheric break) works less as a focal point and more as a fresh changeup. It is only on "Beyond the Grave" where the melodic departure seems a bit ill-fitting for the band; not bad, just shaky.
Otherwise, what CHIMAIRA has done is offer another slab of modern American metal that is still relatively distinct, sonically dense, and tough as hell. But it is the group's demonstrated ability to progress within its sturdy metal framework by adding colors and the occasional dose of experimentation that keeps CHIMAIRA relevant and engaging.